Jason Reitman has his fans, but I am not among them. Juno was one of the most painful things to ever happen to indie cinema. Up in the Air squandered its good will. Thank You For Smoking was a good film tho. I have heard good things about Young Adult, but with this cast, I am not gonna brave the theaters to find out: variety liked it tho.
American comedies have spent the last few years exploring the idea of the man-child — physically mature, but mentally stuck somewhere between high school and adulthood. Now we meet his female counterpart, and it’s not a pretty sight. So much the better: Reteaming pop-savvy scribe Diablo Cody with “Juno” director Jason Reitman, “Young Adult” revels in breaking the rules of safe Hollywood storytelling, casting Charlize Theron as an emotionally stunted YA novelist with limited appeal and no tidy character arc. A B.O. gamble, the deliberately prickly pic courageously risks offending audiences to arrive at a truth beyond its genre’s normal grasp.
Cody has found herself in the media crosshairs after the overnight acclaim of “Juno,” and though the snark-meister has managed to sustain her unique brand through a mix of Twitter updates, Entertainment Weekly columns and edgy writing assignments (“Jennifer’s Body,” “The United States of Tara”), “Young Adult” will surely be the make-it-or-break-it project in many people’s estimation of her talents. Rather than play it safe, Cody spins a personal case of writer’s block — possibly inspired by her gig adapting “Sweet Valley High” for screen — into a deeply unflattering, semi-autobiographical takedown of adult-onset insecurity and egotism, inventing the story of a self-absorbed teen-lit novelist who returns home to rekindle things with the now-married boyfriend she dated in high school.
Theron plays Mavis Gary — beautiful, successful and a mess. Mavis long ago achieved her goal of escaping the perceived oppression of small-town Mercury, Minn., to live the dream in Minneapolis. So why is she so unhappy? “Young Adult” is hip to the answer, but never preaches it outright: When people can hardly stand to be around themselves, they continue to run from and reinvent their lives until they address the fact that the root of their dissatisfaction lies within.
Though Mavis is undoubtedly fashioned from aspects of her creator’s own personality, the operating idea here seems to be that people don’t change. The high-school queen bee will always be insufferable, and her fitting punishment will be having to live with herself — which is precisely Mavis’ situation when the film opens: divorced and getting by on TV dinners and one-night stands in a dumpy caricature of her cosmopolitan ideal.
In such straits, an innocuous email announcing the birth of her old flame’s baby is all it takes to send Mavis’ mind back to the glory days, when she and football star Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson, reprising his laid-back “prom king” aura from “Little Children”) were the school’s cutest couple. On the surface, “Young Adult” is about Mavis’ delusional quest to steal her former beau away from new wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser in a sly supporting turn). Deeper down, the film engages with the concept of maturity in a culture that celebrates such youthful ideals as beauty and instant gratification.
In Mavis’ case, writing pulp melodramas for the Noxzema set encourages her to stay stuck in an adolescent mindset. However, since comedy is tragedy that happens to other people, the film easily plays as satire, following in the same vein as Alexander Payne’s shrewdly observant, gently condescending Midwestern portraits, featuring character moments so true, one can’t help but laugh in pained recognition.
While Cody settles on a less singular yet still piquant voice for her contempo characters than the one heard in “Juno,” Reitman and his cast expertly manage the film’s tricky tone. Even so, “Young Adult” seems content to remain small, retreating from Mavis’ climactic moment of catharsis to deliver an ending that breaks yet another long-standing Hollywood rule, as the flawed heroine stares self-realization in the face and consciously decides not to learn from her experience.
In a film intent on authenticity, it’s no coincidence that Mavis seems to be surrounded by inane reality-TV programming. Real life is messier than that, as demonstrated by the film’s most sympathetic character, a former classmate named Matt Freehauf who was crippled by the cool kids during a miscalculated gay-bashing incident. In a poignant, career-redefining performance by comedian Patton Oswalt, Matt has every right to be resentful, and yet, he’s coped with his adolescent issues better than Mavis.
Mavis, by contrast, comes across like a vampire straight out of one of the supernatural YA book series so popular these days. Shying away from the sun, she eavesdrops on real teens for story ideas and stalks Buddy and his new family, oblivious to the damage she’s capable of inflicting on others.
For Theron, this represents a different kind of performance from “Monster” and “North Country,” for which she won plaudits while allowing herself to look superficially unattractive. Here, the actress plays closer to home, inviting auds to observe the process by which she makes herself beautiful, painting on makeup, clipping her nails and attaching hair extensions to disguise her physical flaws. But the scowl etched on her face reveals the ugliness within, demonstrating a naked candor — one that extends to the screenplay itself — that’s plenty admirable, in part because it’s so squirm-inducing to behold.
Betty Thomas directed the first Chipmunk sequel. As bad as the film was, I was happy to see a female director achieving box office marketability; this is rarer than it ought to be and Thomas had a few good years, Private Parts, Brady Bunch, Dr Dolittle. She was replaced this time by Mike Mitchell who directed one of my biggest guilty pleasures Surviving Christmas and then some truly terrible things (the last Shrek, Sky High).
Jason Lee is back. The chipmunks sing new songs. I don’t understand why the chipmunks are not people size like the were in the cartoon. I further don’t understand by I am so hung up on that issue.
Guy Richie made box office noise with Holmes a few years ago. Now, there is a sequel and its a must see (mediocre as the first was) cause Noomi Rapace is in it. And she is lovely and amazing. See her in this and skip her understudy in Fincher’s Dragon.
The title was supposed to be Dec 16th, sorry
I saw the first Sherlock Holmes. I’m not a huge fan of movies mostly based around over the top special effects and motiveless villains who say ‘Bwa ha ha I’m so evil" in the first place. Attaching such a movie to the Sherlock Holmes franchise is borderline absurd.
I don’t think Juno was that bad. Certainly not a great movie, but I think people get too hung up on the hipster aspect of her character and forget that it ended on a decidedly anti-hipster note, which was the point of the movie. “Screw the hipster husband, this lady is legit.”
After my big mistake of watching Juno, I will probably never make time to go see any movie written by Diablo Cody. I will watch them by accident, like they just so happen to be on television or and idiot hipster friend of mine rents it. I don’t think people get hung up on the character of Juno, but more so the sill “I’m a 16 year old girl trapped inside a 30 something stripper” dialogue. I think Reitman has the potential to be a solid filmmaker making films about the common troubles of modern day working class America which were present in all three films, just handled one way or another that made the film actually good.
i dunno, i think young adult looks kinda good. maybe it was the bowie song tho
Bowie is always good in movies. But then again I think Wes Anderson used enough Bowie for everyone. I really like Patrick Wilson so I might give it a chance.
They used the same song in the trailer for Milk, too.
Patton Oswalt is funny, but when he acts too much the sage of geekery, I tune out.
I’m also not a fan of Juno or Diablo Cody but one review called Young Adult the anti-Juno, which sorta piqued my interest.
I would rather watch CHIPWRECKED than sit through another Diablo Cody/Jason Reitman collaboration. Her tone deaf dialogue mixed with Reitman’s tone deaf direction is lethal.
I see Juno as a straight 5/10, I’m surprised how much people hate it. Certainly not one of my favorites, but not as god awful as other people are saying.
I guess Cody has a “distinctive voice” (distinctively bad IMO) so it’s one that many people react strongly to or strongly against. See also Kevin Smith, Miranda July, Wes Anderson, etc. for similar reactions.
Cody kind of is a female version of Kevin Smith. I can see that.
The BBC Sherlock is much better.
Thanks Dennis. Jason Reitman is positively insufferable… and its rare to encounter films which overflow with self-satisfaction like his.
no one excited about Noomi Rapace’s American debut?
Why are they releasing Sherlock Holmes in the dump month? No competition?
can’t believe they made a 3rd Alvin and Chipmunks. hahaha. oh well. good luck to them.
not that i’m excited about that Reitman film, but i’m tired of watching films about emotionally stunted men. it’s about time they started making them about women, at least more regularly. they are no better than us ;-)
I loved Noomi in the Larsson trilogy, but really dislike Guy Ritchie’s movies.
not a dump month in US
Dragon Tattoo, Tin Tin, War Horse, New Years Eve, Mission Impossible 4
all gonna make money
^^I thought January was a dump month in the U.S?
oh shit, that’s when it comes out here haha
i doubt Mission Impossible 4 will make anywhere near what the other 3 made, but you never know. it will be the rest test for Cruise. it’s sink or swim.
December is never a dump month.
nah Cruise still has at 2 movies in the can, as long as there is another film, you always got a chance.
^^eh? MI is his franchise. surely if his franchise film fails then his career is pretty much over? What else has he got? if audiences won’t see him in that, they won’t bother with anything he does
What else has he got?
Suri, the Scientologist’s golden child.
he is someone like Ford
he can do bomb after bomb and 20 years from now still topline a flick
^^Pity Ford only toplines 30 year old franchises ;-)
wish that were true
Yeah, Cruise never really had franchises. Mission Impossible was a bad attempt to start one. He needs to reinvent himself or disappear for a while. Unfortunately, I think his vanity precludes either.
I was shocked that the first Sherlock Holmes wasn’t atrociously awful. It was bad but watchably bad. Turning Sherlock into an action hero bugged me though.
Ford also has plenty of years left to star in CIA-type thrillers, the person he has to save can be his granddaughter.
Den, all those films were flops, and he didn’t even have top billing on Cowboys.
face it mate, your boy Ford is dead commercially ;-)
Cruise is next. and good riddance to him.
MI will do good business
and rock of ages will do great business
cruise will be fine